Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s disastrous handling of the water charges fiasco has led to serious concerns among his party colleagues about his ability to lead the country.
Four senior Fine Gael minister this week voiced concerns about the Taoiseach’s ability to direct the Government through what they see as the biggest crisis they have faced since taking power.
Huge public demonstrations and confusion over what people will be charged for turning on their taps has lead some senior party figures to believe the lifetime of the Coalition could come to an end sooner than expected.
And a final decision on water charges could still be two weeks away as Government ministers battle over the finer details of what people should pay. Publicly, the Taoiseach and Tanaiste Joan Burton have insisted they are “on the same page”
However, the Labour leader is understood to be standing firm on her view that a family with two adult children should pay €200 a year. Frustrated ministers have privately said the Government has all but lost the battle on water and the public will now only accept a complete u-turn.
“We are not in control of this, if anything else goes wrong the Government’s lifespan will be shortened,” the minister said.
Another minister said the Taoiseach had to step up and lead the party out of the water controversy.
“This is not an anti Enda thing - it is about the need for Fine Gael to regain an objective and purpose and that is Enda’s job,” the minister said.
“After Christmas we are in election mode, the senior hurling starts then and we had better be ready to play,” they added. Others members have held discussions with members of their campaign teams from the last general election in anticipation of going to the polls sooner than expected.
The Sunday Independent has learned dissent is rife amongst all levels of the party.
Party members have claimed the Taoiseach and his ministers have not been publicly addressing the ongoing water charger debacle.
The failure to have a senior Government figure on the recent Late Late Show debate also angered many in the party.
Wicklow TD Andrew Doyle, who represented the Government on the panel discussion, received a round of applause and personal thanks from the Taoiseach at last week’s parliamentary party meeting.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan is understood to seething at the Irish Water mess after bringing an end to austerity measures in the recent Budget.
“He’s appalled that water charges have sunk the best budget in a decade,” a source said. One senior FG source, commenting on the mood at a post Budget election rally, attended by the Taoiseach, said the party members “roasted” Mr Kenny. “He was told in no uncertain terms to sort out this f***cking mess,” the source said.
“The attacks were blistering, Enda was told that it was the job of the boss to take control of the ship and stop it heading for the rocks,” the sourced added.
Independent.ie has learned within the higher echelons of the party discontent is growing with the performance of the embattled Taoiseach.
One senior party source said: “There is a lot of grizzling going on within the party itself over how Enda is faring on this. For the first time there is unease within the wider Fine Gael party about the performance of Enda. Party officers, quite a few actually, are saying ‘he is going to have to sort it out, why hasn’t he sorted it out.’” There is a lot of internal calls being made, the Taoiseach is losing the party.”
Another source said: “There is real internal trouble over this, the Fine Gael troops are very unhappy, they are starting to look at the way things are going and they don’t like the look of it.”
Member of the so called five-a-side club, Brendan Griffin said: ‘‘Enda is talking about this being solved next week, we warned him in January and February, certainty of price was the issue, how many warnings does a cabinet need.”
Carlow TD Pat Deering also warned: ‘‘Irish Water has been wounding us for a year now, it did us huge damage in the locals, it’s gone past time this was sorted out’’.